Word Play with Kids . . . O Frabjous Day

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Word Play with Kids

Word play with kids comes naturally and makes writing and creating more fun.

For example, is a cough- sneeze a snoff or a cougeeze? Or is sneeze + cough = a snoff? If there’s not a word for something, why not invent one? And, why not entice your reluctant writers with such fun word play?

Word play in children starts early – we rhyme, we make up silly languages and we try to figure out words based on our knowledge of grammar rules. Last week I couldn’t figure out the plural of caboose. I mean, is it cabooi like cactus is cacti or cabooses like mooses? Kids do this all the time and it’s so important to language development!

The master of inventing words was Dr. Seuss. And, remember Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky? I love reading that poem out loud, don’t you? (My tribute is “O frabjous day.”)

Do you know that the dictionary makers add new words every year?

1. Make Up Silly WordsWord Play with Kids

In Ralph Fletcher’s book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, Playful Craft that Sparks Writing, he suggests using the picture book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to show your writer(s) how authors make up words. Together, find the made-up words like “chicka” and “skoodle” and guess why and how the authors invented those words.

For older students, Fletcher recommends the Andrew Clements’ novel Frindle and the Harry Potter books.

What will you call made-up words? Fletcher says that Rich Hall, the comedian, calls these words “sniglets.” I think I’ll call my made-up words “knibrontons.”

2. Start a Wacky Word Book

It’s always fun if you do these things together so you’re both thinking about it and writing in your own books. Go ahead and borrow my “snoff” if you want to get you started. (Make your own books or use a store-bought notebook.) Consider making it like a dictionary and label each page in alphabetical order. Add definitions and illustrations to make it even better.

Word Play with Kids3. Invent New Animals

Try this wordplay idea: combine animal words and create a new animal. So a zebra + a lamb = a zamb? Now try to illustrate it!

4. Goof Around with Palindromes

Palindromes are words spelled the same backward and forwards like “mom”and “race car” and “Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!” (I LOVE Palindromes and just bought this shirt at Mental Floss to express my inner geekiness. You may notice it’s not quite a palindrome. . . )

So, how about messing up palindromes? Just write words backward and see if they sound cool? Like “kids” would be “sdik”. What would it mean? Or “boy” would be “yob”.

What are your favorite word play ideas?

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word play with kids

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  1. One of the favorites at my house is “turducken”. Got that one off a cat food can. (turkey+chicken+duck). What’s for dinner? TURDUCKEN! My classroom fave is “brighting”. When you use lots of colorful words in your writing you’re brighting.

  2. We love word play and take particular delight in signs that massacre English. Because of this, all poultry we see have become “chickenducks” (a for sale sign we saw in Fiji) and cattle are “bullamacows” (pidjin from New Guinea).

    I have a post coming up for Dr Seuss’s birthday next week, and will add your link, Melissa. LOVE ideas that promote word play!